Austin Stiegemeier is the type of kid who could have gone either way. The son of teachers, he was a talented, smart teenager, but unengaged academically, he says.
"I struggled more with the authoritarian aspect" of school, says Stiegemeier, whose artwork, he writes in his artist's statement, often places the figure "in situations of tension or dilemma, to discuss the drama of human vulnerability."
Stiegemeier credits retired Lakeland High School art teacher Jan Edelblute for providing the right balance of encouragement, structure, technique and freedom to explore what's become his passion.
"Art was the only place where I felt I was wanted," he says.
Now Stiegemeier is making connections for others in a kids' printmaking workshop spearheaded by Rachel Dodge, gallery manager at Studio 107 in Coeur d'Alene.
The Patrick Flammia Drawing Institute, named for the late Pat Flammia, from whom Dodge took art lessons as a young adult, is funding the workshop. Flammia, a regional artist and instructor, and his wife Sue helped found the Citizens' Council for the Arts and Art on the Green in 1968.
Sue, whom Dodge describes as the "matriarch of making art opportunities happen," is a longtime Coeur d'Alene lawyer whose association with the court system made yet another connection.
District Court Judge Barry Watson wants to use artwork to make the Juvenile Justice Building "a little less sterile and more inviting to children and families."
A child's waiting room, says Watson, now has child-friendly décor including stuffed animals and children's books. The plan is to display the artwork from the printmaking workshop in or near Courtroom 13, where young people come to court for both juvenile and child protective services.
Watson isn't stopping there, though.
"What I would like to see is four or five fairly large pieces of colorful art done by children to make the courtroom more inviting and pleasing," he says.
Watson is also looking for ways to connect with the numerous kids on probation in whom he's noticed talent for and interest in art. You know, the kind of kids who could go either way.
Kids Printmaking Workshop with Austin Stiegmeier • Feb. 15, 22 and March 1 from 9 am to 1 pm each day • Call 208-651-6219 to register